The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on the past 12 months and anticipate what the next might hold. As Director of The Robertson Trust I wanted to take the opportunity to look back at 2018 and forward into 2019.
The past year saw a dramatic increase in demand for our open awards. In 2017 we awarded just over £14M, in 2018 this figure increased to £16.9M and in our current financial year we anticipate this figure rising to nearly £20M.
While our income has not risen at the same rate, our trustees feel that it is appropriate to meet this exceptional demand for people in communities across Scotland.
Applicants and grant holders have indicated that public sector cuts by Local Authorities and the NHS are the main reason for the sector facing a squeeze on their finances. The cumulative effect is comprised of many years of cuts coupled with wage pressure and increased demand for services. As a result, many organisations have run down their reserves and are now facing significant financial issues.
This situation is exacerbated by the problem of final salary pensions; for charities, the local government schemes are too expensive to be in, yet also too expensive to come out of. Despite much work and lobbying by The Robertson Trust, ICAS and others in the funding community, the LGPS schemes have refused to consider any ways for affected charities to leave on a fair basis. This has resulted in a tightening of the screw for the charities concerned.
This significant increase in demand for funding has caused us to bring forward our strategic review by a year to ensure we are best able to meet the demand faced by charities. Even at the outset it is clear that we will need to look at how we fund as well as what we fund.
The challenge for us as a funder is to maximise the impact of our resources. We can do this in various ways, such as leveraging other funds, increasing the capacity of organisations, funding collaboratively and using our balance sheet to support the sector in ways that extend beyond traditional grant making.
One example of how we have used our balance sheet is our new charity hub in Stirling. With this project, instead of investing our capital in the stock market, we have invested in offering subsidised accommodation to charities. Such investments, although on our balance sheet, do clearly add to the capacity of the sector and can help with core costs through offering reduced rents.
The purpose of our strategic review will be to be consider how the Trust’s combined resources can be used to create the most impact in the sector. When we have our new strategy at the end of the year, I am in no doubt we will be in a strong position to do this and, to that end, I am very much looking forward to 2019!